WASHINGTON - College students face many issues today, including raising tuition rates and cuts to programs. Student loan debt topped $1 trillion and is expected to reach (and even surpass) $1.3 trillion. The average loan debt of a student graduating with a bachelor's degree is $29,400. The high debt burden affects 70 percent of all students who graduate with a bachelor's degree.
That is what the 300 students attending this past weekend's United States Student Association Legislative Conference learned as they also spent the three days planning a day of action on Capitol Hill for Monday morning, Mar. 17, to demand lawmakers do something to fix it. Yet, Sunday evening it began to snow, shutting down congressional offices.
This didn't stop student from taking action, making them more determined to share their stories and reach legislators. Students began a media blast that would last all day. Tweeting, Tumbling, and Facebooking with the hashtags, #DebtFreeFuture, #EndStudentDebt and #EducationIsARight, students sent pictures and wrote posts. They also called lawmakers, leaving voicemails on their answering machines.
The hard work done during the weekend's all nighters- from practicing chants and songs to reviewing each lobbying topic - would not go to waste either. Actions in home districts on student debt are planned for later this spring.
While student debt is one of the biggest issues students face, cuts to assistance in paying for college tuition, books, room and board are related. This includes programs like TRIO and Pell Grants. TRIO is a federal program that serves and supports high school and college students from "disadvantaged backgrounds." Through its eight programs, TRIO assists "low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to post baccalaureate programs."
In addition, students are also facing stricter voters registration laws that make holding registration drives on campuses more difficult. Students pledged to help pass the Voting Rights Amendment Act that would insure the voting rights of all people and hold states accountable for voter suppression.
Photo: Earchiel Johnson and Lisa Bergmann of the YCL participate in USSA's lobby day March 17. (via Twitter)